$n$ Columbia, Walla Walla county waterways in line for funds

Projects around the region stand to gain nearly $1.8 million from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

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Five projects to improve the health of streams and rivers in Columbia County are due for a million-dollar boost.

The works are among those slated for a total of $1,014,179 in grants from the Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The money is part of $20.7 million awarded by the board in late December for restoration projects throughout Washington state, chairman Steve Tharinger said in a release.

Four projects in Walla Walla County will also receive $426,201 in grant funds. Two additional grants for $344,500 will aid restoration projects for streams that cross county boundaries.

The grants are expected to create or continue about 250 jobs in the state over the next four years, Tharinger said. The projects were developed by local watershed groups based on regional recovery plans.

The largest grant for Columbia County, $460,000, will be used by the Columbia Conservation District to reconnect 130 acres of floodplain along nearly four miles of the Tucannon River.

The task will include removing an existing levee and building a setback levee on the river's right bank so the stream can spread out during high flows.

The work will promote natural development of habitat for spring Chinook, steelhead and bull trout, all of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Two grants of $85,295 and $70,980 will go to the Blue Mountain Land Trust to protect land along South Patit Creek and the Touchet River through purchase of conservation easements.

In Walla Walla County, three projects proposed by the Inland Empire Action Coalition will receive grants as well as a fourth proposed by the Tri State Steelheaders.

The largest grant, $279,020 will be used by the coalition to purchase a conservation easement to protect 140 acres along the Touchet River south of Prescott.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board oversees investment of state and federal funds for salmon recovery.

Since 2000, the board has awarded nearly $417 million in grants for 1,775 projects and grant recipients have contributed more than $189 million in matching resources.

The grants will come from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and were approved by Congress earlier this year, Tharinger said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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